NASA Tests Refueling Arm to Prove It Can Extend Space Flight Potential
Kyle Maxey posted on August 27, 2019 |


Robotic Refueling Mission 3’s Multi-Function Tool 2, operated by Dextre, demonstrates robotic refueling operations on the outside of a space station. (Image courtesy of NASA.)

Robotic Refueling Mission 3’s Multi-Function Tool 2, operated by Dextre, demonstrates robotic refueling operations on the outside of a space station. (Image courtesy of NASA.)

Aboard the International Space Station, a number of important missions take place. Astronauts learn how to live and work in isolated and psychologically demanding environments, biology in space is subject to the effects of a zero-g existence, and even routine procedures are re-engineered to work in space.


That was certainly the case Aug. 16, 2019, when NASA engaged its Robotic Refueling Mission 3 (RRM3).

In the world of advanced aerospace maneuvering on Earth, refueling has become a common occurrence. Fighter jets and other craft commonly dock with fueling tankers mid-flight and extend their range. However, on Earth all the fuel in the world is just a few miles down at any one time. That’s not the case in outer space, where the distances span into the hundreds of thousands of miles away from origin.

According to NASA, if humanity is going to travel to the outer solar system and beyond, it will have to be able to refuel its craft with cryogenic hydrogen, oxygen and methane. That’s what the RRM3 was built to do.

In the Aug. 16test, NASA’s team on the ground in Maryland and aboard the ISS orbiting the Earth “demonstrated the first of three tools designed to robotically transfer liquid methane from one tank to another in space. Operated by space station’s Dextre robot, a specially designed tool unstowed a cryogen coupler adapter and inserted it into a cryogen coupler adapter port. This operation would make it possible to then transfer cryogenic fuel using the remaining RRM3 tools.”

While this first maneuver is only a setup for the complete testing of the complete RRM3 tool package, it marks another milestone in procedure development for the ever diligent NASA and brings humanity one step closer to the stars.

Hey, not every milestone is a step onto the moon, but as long as they are steps forward, they are progress.

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